Spoon just released a video for its new single “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” — one which is simple in premise but complex in execution. The core concept is that you’re watching lead singer Britt Daniel be Photoshopped by an invisible designer in real-time (or, double-time in many of the scenes). As the image mutates and changes, a kind of abstract narrative is revealed, a dark match to the slinking song. Watching the video reminded me of another classic that seems simple at the outset, but grows increasingly complex with each passing moment; R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life.” The video was a landmark when it was released 16 years ago, but it turns out a lot of people have never seen it. Are you one of those people? If so, this is the moment. This is the place.
Spoon, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
Spoon’s “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” is a return to form for the band. Evoking the restrained energy of the group’s 2002 album Kill the Moonlight, the track is a creeping threat of a song, rolling on four minutes of ping-pong bass and slow motion disco stomp. Every now and again guitars shudder in, like a jump scare in an old horror movie, but the song never takes you to the climax. The killer is never revealed; he just menaces from a remove. The video is matched well, a short experiment about what Photoshop can show and hide, using minimal, raw materials to create a much more complex narrative. Like a wild dog jumping out of the frame, everything about the track boils under and threatens to explode. A sensation perhaps worse than the explosion itself.
R.E.M., “Imitation of Life”
Bearing few similarities musically, R.E.M.’s 2001 melancholic sleeper “Imitation of Life” does share a theme on the visual side. As with Spoon’s effort above, directors Hammer & Tongs play with the repeated, the revisited, as well as the unseen; the things you must search for at the edges of your gaze. Technically a stunning achievement for its age, the crop-and-zoom brings you into and out of secret interactions that dot the landscape of an appropriately creepy suburban pool party. Like a discarded set-piece from the The Swimmer, revelers shimmy and cavort, unaware of the panopticon in which they’re trapped. The viewer is the voyeur, the repetition the reveal.